Protect your home from cold weather

Be smarter by being prepared for the winter

Cold spells can be troublesome for your home. There are some simple steps you can take to protect your home from winter weather which may help reduce repairs and maintenance.

In very cold weather, water pipes can freeze and this can cause them to burst. The advice below should help avoid frozen pipes:

  • Protect your water pipes with insulation (lagging), especially those on external walls, in lofts and unheated rooms.
  • Keep your house warm by using the central heating for short periods of time throughout the day.
  • Allow warm air into your roof space by keeping the loft hatch open.
  • Keep the cupboard door under the sink open. This will let warm air move around the pipes.
  • Keep room doors slightly open to allow the warm air to move around the house.

Fire kills

In severe weather you may be making use of fires and candles for warmth, ambience, or in the event of power cuts, for light.

To stay safe using fire, you are advised to ensure that you have a smoke alarm on every level of your home and that you test it regularly.

You should also do the following:
Open fires: sweep your chimney, use a fireguard, make sure the fire is put out properly before you leave the room.
Electric heaters: keep away from curtains and furniture, and do not use for drying clothes. Always unplug when you go out or go to bed.
Electric blankets: do not use a hot water bottle, even if the blanket's switched off. Unplug blankets before you go to bed, unless they have thermostat control for safe all-night use.
Candles: lit candles must never be left unattended and should be secured in a proper holder away from materials that may catch fire - like curtains.

If you have a thatched roof: read fire safety guidance

For more information, you may wish to contact your local fire and rescue service (not 999). Alternatively, visit HM Government's Fire Kills campaign web page or  HM Governments' Fire Kills campaign on Facebook

If you have a frozen pipe

If you spot that one of your pipes might be frozen, turn off your inside stop tap. It might be under the kitchen sink, in an airing cupboard or under floorboards near the front door.

It's best to thaw out pipes slowly, by using a hairdryer on its lowest setting, hot water bottles or towels soaked in warm water.  Do not use direct heat as this may cause permanent damage to the pipes and could also lead to a fire in the home.

Turn on nearby cold taps (keep the stop tap turned off) this will relieve pressure on the frozen pipe.

If you have a burst pipe

Sometimes pipes freezing and thawing can cause them to burst. If this happens, turn off the mains water supply immediately by using stopcock. This will stop any more water getting into the water pipes. If the burst pipe is on the main water system the rush of water will stop after a short while.
If the rush of water does not stop or there is still a constant run of water, the problem is probably on the cold water storage system. You will need to drain down the cold water storage tank which is usually located in the roof space.

To find an accredited and trusted plumber qualified to work with water supplies in your area visit the WaterSafe website ( or call 0333 207 9030.

When you go on holiday in the winter

If you are planning to leave your property empty for a period of time over the winter, it is a good idea to do the following:

  • Leave your heating on for at least an hour a day while you are away from home
  • In severe weather, or if severe weather is forecast, you should leave your heating on day and night at your usual temperature setting
  • If you're going to be away for a while, consider turning off your inside stop tap and draining the system so there is no water in the pipes to freeze.
  • If high winds are forecast, make sure objects such as garden furniture or ladders are fully secured
  • In severe weather, consider asking a friend or relative to visit your home every day while you are away. This will mean that, if you do suffer a burst pipe, it will be detected as soon as possible. Make sure that they know where the stop tap or stopcock is located.

Weather alerts straight to your phone

Stay weather aware this winter by following the Met Office on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and YouTube for the latest weather information. You can also sign up for severe weather alerts from us through the Twitter Alerts programme, providing critical information directly to your phone. Find out more about how to sign up for Met Office Twitter alerts

Last updated: 30 September 2016

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